[ Show ]
Support VoyForums
[ Shrink ]
VoyForums Announcement: Programming and providing support for this service has been a labor of love since 1997. We are one of the few services online who values our users' privacy, and have never sold your information. We have even fought hard to defend your privacy in legal cases; however, we've done it with almost no financial support -- paying out of pocket to continue providing the service. Due to the issues imposed on us by advertisers, we also stopped hosting most ads on the forums many years ago. We hope you appreciate our efforts.

Show your support by donating any amount. (Note: We are still technically a for-profit company, so your contribution is not tax-deductible.) PayPal Acct: Feedback:

Donate to VoyForums (PayPal):

Login ] [ Contact Forum Admin ] [ Post a new message ] [ Search | Check update time ]

Welcome to the discussion board for LK Hunsaker. Currently, it's hosting the serialized version of Rehearsal: A Different Drummer. It is open to the public for reading, but may not be copied, printed, or distributed in any way without written permission from the author.

Feel free to leave questions, comments, and reviews here, or just drop in to say hello and let me know you're reading. General discussion with other readers about the story is encouraged.

The board is password protected to prevent spamming. It may be changed from time to time and will be listed on the novel's website (bottom left corner):


If you've read the whole novel & the next of the series, The Highest Aim, please jump in and discuss the posted sections with others, but don't leave spoilers! If you're enjoying the story, please pass along the link and password to friends!

A Different Drummer can be purchased in print directly from the author, personally signed, here:
purchased from the publisher here:
and purchased as an Ebook for only $6.00 here:
[those taking part in the discussion here can request a coupon for $1.00 off the Ebook or print price (purchases from the publisher's site are not eligible).. email info @ lkhunsaker .com (with no spaces) to request the discount.]

~~This serialization may be deleted at any time at the author's discretion. I will be searching for copyright infringements online.~~

To use the following images as links to the novel site, copy and paste the following code(s):


Use of the chat room is open to all. Please keep conversation PG-13 or below. Chats with the author will be set up occasionally.

Enter my Chat Room

LK Hunsaker.com

Subject: Different Drummer #1

LK Hunsaker
[ Edit | View ]

Date Posted: 10:01:13 03/15/09 Sun


Spring, 1972

“Hey sweetie, wanna dance?”

Duncan raised his arm to wipe sweat rolling under his chin onto his sleeve and threw her a glance, not bothering to turn the bar stool in her direction. Shagged brown hair topped her average-height frame; she was not much shorter than he was, he supposed. A modern girl, including her willingness to approach him in such a direct manner. “Thank you, bu’ I am workin’.” He looked back to check on his ordered beer, smoke choking his mouth and throat.

She moved closer. “Not at the moment, you’re not.”

Returning his eyes, he noted a tenacity in her expression and body language. A quality he liked, to a certain extent. “Well, y’ are right. At the moment, I am tryin’ t’ cool off a bit. Then I am goin’ back t’ work.” A trickle of sweat rolled down the side of his face from underneath the damp hair falling over his forehead, and Duncan leaned forward to pull the bottom of his T-shirt up, rubbing it across his face and letting it fall again.

Accepting the mug that finally came across the bar, he took a large swallow, the coolness against his hand echoing the stream of liquid pouring down his throat.

The girl cuddled into his shoulder. “Are you ever here when you’re not working?” Fingers with painted nails touched his arm.

Ignoring a snigger from the new bartender, he again raised the mug to his lips, allowing time to consider an answer. “Now and then.” The chill of the glass distracted him from the girl’s flesh pushing against his and the muskiness of her cologne.

She broke through, sliding both hands around his fingers and the heavy mug, pulling it from him. “So maybe you’ll dance with me another night?” Sipping his beer, she kept her eyes on his. Narrow eyes. Lashes painted longer than natural matching thick black lines extending from the corners; the brushed-on green of her lids attempting to extend the brownish-green of her pupils. It didn’t work well.

She rubbed a finger around the edge of the mug, hinting.
Duncan considered the offer. She looked fake, but not snobbish. And who was he to be too particular? “Maybe.”

She grinned, pushing the drink back toward him.

“Keep it.”

He watched her move away, flaunting the beer to her table of friends, repeating the conversation, he figured, making it more than it was. He never understood the infatuation girls had with guys in local bands. Hell, this wasn’t even a good local band. His mates were okay guys, as far as it went, but barely third-rate musicians. It didn’t seem to matter. They were only background noise for pick-up lines and attempts at relaxation by intoxication in the dark out-of-the-way bar.

Dark was helpful. It disguised the niched plank floor and scratches in the old wood tables with only patches of varnish left as pointless protection. Duncan could imagine his mother cringing about him playing at the little dive, though it was better than many he’d played. For the most part, it was kept clean, though likely not clean enough for her. He was just as glad she didn’t know how he was living – day to day, city to city, jumping from one third-rate band to another while doing whatever other cash jobs he could find.

Ordering another beer, he watched the small crowd, studying the ones he recognized as regulars and the few he didn’t. Mostly, he played to the same group every weekend. It was only a paycheck. There wasn’t one, he imagined, who would even know if he played a wrong chord now and then. They weren’t listening, not more than enough to go through the motions of dancing. Their drummer was at least decent. They kept a good beat going.

A movement from the table of Thiel College students caught his attention. They were always easy to spot, dressed too well for the bar full of locals and holding their chins higher than necessary. One of them rose to retrieve his drink from the bar instead of barking an order at the girls serving. He was the only male at the table without a cigarette hanging from his mouth or fingers. Worst part of playing in bars, the damn cloud of nicotine.

The guy was heading in his direction. Duncan turned back, waiting to catch the bartender. “Is tha’ beer comin’ tonight?”

“Make that two. And a wine spritzer. After his, of course.”

Wine spritzer. For the girl at the table sitting sideways in the chair with her legs crossed and her shoulders straight, Duncan guessed.

“How long have you been playing?”

Glancing up to make sure the college guy was talking to him, he answered … barely. “A while.” He looked away again.

“Obviously. I meant, how many years?”

“Why?” Duncan raised his hands in a questioning gesture at the new bartender. He would have to go back and play before he ever got it, at this pace.

The intruder took advantage of the stool next to him being vacated, and planted himself as if he actually belonged in the bar, raising his voice to talk over the recorded music played between sets. “You’re wasting your talent here. You’re a hell of a guitarist.”

Duncan looked over, unable to completely dismiss the compliment, since it wasn’t from a girl this time. He sincerely doubted this guy was hitting on him. “You play?”

“Not much since I started school, but when I can.”

He nodded and turned away. Another beginner looking for pointers, and he had better things to do than waste time on a college student who wanted to learn just enough to pick up girls.

“So, why are you here?”

Duncan’s back straightened. What made this guy think it was any of his business? Holding his thoughts, he stood. He would rather hang with the band than be harrassed by some stranger.

The college student stood up beside him and Duncan swung around. “Man, wha’ do you want?”

The guy shrugged. “Just to talk. I don’t get to meet many guitarists of your caliber.” He chuckled. “Actually, I’ve never met anyone who can play like that. I have to wonder why you’re wasting your time here. I mean, with that accent, you’re obviously not from Pennsylvania.”

Hell, the damn accent. How long was it going to take to get rid of it? Anyway, the conversation was done. “I ‘m busy.”

“Your friends aren’t ready to play yet.”

“Look, ge’ lost. I ‘m no’ a guitar teacher, alright?” Starting to move away, Duncan felt a hand grasp his shoulder and he spun, seizing the guy’s arm and twisting it behind his back. “Do no’ push me, man.”

Duncan cursed himself for giving in to his instincts and began judging the group of guys who pushed in toward them – Thiel students coming to the rescue, Duncan’s band mates ready to join in, and regulars jeering for a fight. He wasn’t concerned about the other college kids. They wouldn’t be any trouble to take out, but the guy he was so far still holding was taller, and built bigger, and didn’t seem naïve enough to start something he couldn’t finish.

“I’m Evan Scott. Nice to meet you, too.”

Taken aback by the friendly tone and total non-resistance, Duncan released him and stepped away, studying the guy as he turned. He was maybe a bit taller than Duncan, an inch at the most, 5’10” or so, but had a larger build, probably enhanced by weights. His eyes were a shade darker than his medium brown hair and his clothes were less pretentious than those of his friends, but still decent and coordinated.

“Evan, cream that guy. He’s no match for you.”

A Thiel boy, looking for trouble. Duncan eyed him, and the other two joining in agreement, edging closer. But he kept the most attention on his antagonist, who dismissed the fact that his companions were pushing for a fight and that Duncan’s band mates were moving in, calling insults back. He stood, waiting for a reaction, or an answer. Or trying to decide Duncan’s weak spot.

The trouble-maker moved in. “Hell, I bet he can’t fight any better than he can play. What’s to worry about?”

Duncan grabbed the band’s lead singer to keep him from lunging. “Le’ it go.”

“Let it go, hell. He’s insane. He doesn’t know music worth a shit.”

“So what? Le’ it go.” His voice hardened. “Le’ it go.” The singer wouldn’t go against him; they knew each other at least that well. Neither would the others.

“See? He’s chicken-shit. You could take him out easy.”

Evan Scott chuckled. “I wouldn’t count on that. Brad, go sit down. There’s nothing to fight about.”

“Nothing to fight about? The guy attacked you.”

“No, he didn’t. And it was my fault, not his. Go.”

The guy with the younger face and idiot expression hesitated, throwing looks of disgust at the band. “Not before they do. You know, these locals carry weapons. They’re nothing but common thugs.”

Duncan shoved his band mates away from the college kids. This guy didn’t want to fight, either. There was no point in letting some little punk barely old enough to be away from home push something neither of them wanted.
But he kept pushing.

Evan Scott pushed back, but not physically. “Brad, go away before I personally throw you out of here. And take your henchmen with you.” The authority in his manner backed the others down. Hushed voices passed around the perimeter and Duncan’s band mates calmed but remained wary. The college kids sulked back to their table, yelling another drink order at the waitress before sitting.

Disappointed by the lack of action, the rest of the crowd slinked away. Duncan thanked his mates for the support and sent them back to the pit, waiting for further conversation with this guy while the bar owner approached, holding the two mugs of beer ordered before the confrontation, offering them on the house.

Duncan accepted the second mug, nodding at the friendly hand set on his shoulder. Evan Scott tried to insist on paying. Joe wasn’t going to have it. They had saved him a ton of trouble and expense by not causing a break-up of his bar. And Duncan always got his beer free at Sam’s.

When the owner left again, he put his eyes back on the college kid who didn’t look as much like a kid as the others. So, he could get riled if pushed hard enough, though his friendly eyes would’ve belied that fact. And he apparently had guts, since he sent his own friends away while Duncan’s companions were still standing with him.

Taking a swallow, he relented. “So what is it tha’ you want?”

“As I said, just to talk. And I prefer to know who I’m talking to.”

Duncan studied him a moment longer. He liked this guy’s style. He could give only his first name, as usual, but Evan Scott had given both of his, and he had gone to a lot of trouble to talk to him.

He extended his hand. “Duncan O’Neil.”

[ Post a Reply to This Message ]
Subject: Different Drummer #2a

LK Hunsaker
[ Edit | View ]

Date Posted: 10:17:06 03/15/09 Sun

10 March 1974


Duncan opened his eyes from the half sleeping state he had allowed himself. Looking around at people jumping from their seats trying to beat everyone else out the door, he waited. He was in no hurry. In fact, he could stay on the bus a while longer and see how far it would take him before the driver realized he had passed his stop. But, he told Ev he was coming.

He took a deep, slow breath before grabbing the things by his side and moving into the aisle. The duffel got tossed over his shoulder, but the only possession, well, one of the two possessions he cared about, went ahead of him.

The sun burned into his tired eyes as he stepped down onto the crowded sidewalk. Pulling the dark sunglasses from atop his head, he pushed them in front of his face. When his pupils adjusted, he surveyed the area. Same as any city: blank cement walls, graffiti, cigarette butts speckling the dirty curbs, bodies moving in both directions. The damn pigeons included, daring to swerve around unaware passers-by while searching for hand-outs.

A constant breath of cool air interrupted the heat, keeping his second most-treasured possession, a black leather vest, from being uncomfortable. He didn’t need the extra warmth. He rarely did, but the vest had become a part of him.

A jolt against his shoulder reminded him that he was still standing in the unmarked path of the bus entrance. He looked back at the offender, his glance pushing the boy to hurry into the bus. Heading out of the congestion, he let the guitar case drop against his left leg. He always kept his right hand free.

So what now? He was in his friend’s city and Ev was waiting on his call. But he needed time, and maybe coffee.

“Excuse me.” He tried to stop one of the passing locals. The guy barely looked at him before swerving to move away. Duncan stared a moment, irritated by the rudeness, then searched for someone willing to give him directions.

After more of the same, he gave up and started walking, dismissing the looks he was used to getting. They were different here, though. In Chicago, they had been warning him to stay away, as though he intended to cause trouble. Here, in small city Massachusetts, they were looking down at him, or not even bothering with a glance. He supposed Ev’s band mates would be the same. Not a problem; it would give him a reason to leave again.

Rain-and-dirt-streaked cement walls gave way to red brick buildings, some with bright green ivy crawling up their sides, others with wrought-iron gates protecting them from intruders. One had a large portal with two Romanesque columns supporting each end. It looked out of place among the plainer office buildings. He wasn’t sure whether it was an office or a residence. There was no sign advertising its business, but it was too large to be a private home. Anyway, Duncan couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to live in something so overdone.

Approaching a corner, he stayed on the outer edge of the sidewalk, watching for what may lie beyond his present vision, and was hit with the aroma of baking bread as he turned. His stomach knotted. He hadn’t eaten in … roughly twenty-four hours. Maybe more. The events of the past few days were a blur by now, with little food and not much more sleep. He still had a few bills in his pocket, and Ev would likely insist he stay with him, but he wasn’t going to count on that. Coffee would hold him a while longer.

A shapeless girl in a tight orange sweater and red mini-skirt standing in the doorway under the café sign watched him walk closer. The hairy man she was hanging on pulled a cigarette from his lips. Threading a line of smoke from the side of his mouth, he leered through narrow slits. Duncan would have to push through them to get inside if they didn’t move voluntarily. He hoped they would. He didn’t have the energy or the will for a confrontation.

Studying the girl, Duncan knew she couldn’t tell where his eyes were focused behind his opaque black lenses. She was still watching him. Her eyes drifted up and down his frame, showing no concern about the other guy noticing. A fleeting thought of temporary companionship took hold of him, but she was too overdone. He didn’t want another prima donna fussing about him messing up her hair or smudging her lips. And what was she trying to hide behind the dark pink rouge, caked-on blue eye shadow and bright red lipstick? Not likely anything he really wanted. It sure wasn’t worth a fight.

Pausing in front of the large man, Duncan didn’t speak. They knew he wanted through the door, and he didn’t want to reveal his accent to this guy. As a show of power, the man waited several seconds before moving aside, just enough.

Duncan pushed the wood-frame screen door out of his way and returned the sunglasses to the top of his head, throwing a glance around the room. The café was nearly empty, except for three men in blue work uniforms who eyed him as he entered. The place was small and needed some modernization, but it was clean.

He could now smell coffee and greasy food and thought again about getting something semi-nutritious while making his way through the stares. Claiming a table in the corner, he threw his duffel over the back of the chair against the wall and propped the guitar case holding his Fender Mustang against the one next to him. The waitress was there as soon as he sat down.

She grinned shyly. “Would you like a menu?”

“No, thank you. Just coffee, black. And a phone?”

“Over there.” She glanced to her left, then moved away.

She was a pretty thing: round enough to look adorably feminine, with an oval face and dark brown eyes. Her hair was rather plain, a mousy brown pulled into a high ponytail, but her friendliness threw a highlight on her beauty.

The workmen stopped her before she could return with his coffee, but she didn’t waste time getting to him. “This is a little strong. Would you like to wait for a fresh pot? It won’t take but a few minutes.”

“It’s fine.” Duncan was careful with his pronunciation, though it was always more of a struggle when he was so dead-tired.

Pouring the steaming liquid into the heavy white cup, she wouldn’t have needed to warn him about its strength. He caught a slight scald within its natural aroma. Still, the smell was tantalizing, and he didn’t bother to wait for it to cool.

The cropped-hair work suits were still watching. Duncan kept them in his vision without looking directly, and stopped the waitress. “You know the city well?”

She hesitated. “Yes. Do you need directions?”

“No.” He took another sip. “How long have you been here?”

Now she glanced back toward an open doorway behind the counter. But she didn’t walk away. “All my life. I was born in Lakewood.”

“You have not wanted t’ leave?”

Her eyes showed fear. “I have to check an order.” She pulled back and soon disappeared through the door.

What had he said? He wasn’t used to women who were so jittery. Most of the girls he had met in the last five years had been very … well, not jittery. But then, most he had met in bars. He couldn’t see this one in a bar, unless she was with a boyfriend and sipping wine. He could see her with his friend. Ev hadn’t cared for the girls in the little dive Duncan had been playing in when they had met. He would have to have someone classier, or at least more subdued. That girl he’d been dating wasn’t his type, either. What had he said about her? “Her parents pay her tuition and send her money.” He hadn’t stayed with her long, though that was partly Duncan’s fault. Once Ev started hanging out with him, many of the Thiel College students, including the rich girl, pulled away.

Duncan still didn’t understand why Ev chose an expensive private college when he couldn’t really afford it. He’d said it was because it was close to home, and he had to be there for some girl his mom was helping to raise if she ever needed him. But, she wasn’t a girlfriend, just a kid they were babysitting from the way it sounded. He hadn’t said much about her, except that she lost her mom and her dad was away a lot. And he’d written that she moved with him, or followed him. Anyway, he was still looking after her.

The waitress returned to warm his still half-full coffee. “I’m making more. Do you want me to dump this?”

He shook his head. So she added to it and left again.

It was strong, and bitter, but he could feel its warmth from inside. The men in work clothes paid their bill while chatting with the waitress, then threw him a look. He needed to call Ev, but now, as they were leaving, was probably not a good time. So he let his thoughts wander while swallowing the dark liquid.

Sam’s Shack, the little dive in Greenville, Pennsylvania where he had met Ev, crawled back into his mind. It hadn’t been the worst place he had played, or worked, and he liked the owners, Joe and Mel. Mel was short for something, maybe Melanie or … well, Joe’s wife was always just called Mel. They had offered him a job hauling and shelving their supplies, since Joe’s back wouldn’t allow him to lift anything heavier than a beer mug, and had given him a small room in their home and a small salary. It had been enough, with the band fees, since Mel insisted he eat with them, as well. They never had children and lived next to their bar, “adopting” their favorite patrons. For some reason, they had taken an instant liking to Duncan when he’d started playing with their regular band. Sam, he’d eventually found out, had no meaning. Joe just liked the sound of it.

The little bar was a local hang-out for the younger working class. Saturday night at Sam’s was a ritual for the same general crowd every week. Occasionally, though, a few Thiel College students would drop in. None ever went there alone, and for good reason. The strife between the Thiel kids and the locals had been obvious the first time Duncan played. Generally, they left each other alone, sometimes exchanging words, but a couple of times, Duncan helped one of his band mates through a fight, only from a sense of honor. He would rather have had the college kids stay away, until he met Ev.

But Ev wasn’t like the others. He had been in his second year of a two-year business degree after working full-time for the first two years after high school to save money. His mom had divorced years before and they had no help from his father, so Ev started working at an early age to help support his family. He had lost a brother during his teen years and often treated Duncan as a little brother, though they were only a year apart.

He didn’t mind, except that he figured once Ev graduated and moved back home, that would be the end of it. And this guy was the only person Duncan had been able to be himself around. He would have missed him.

Ev, however, didn’t intend to let the friendship end, inviting Duncan to go with him and stay at his mother’s home until they found an apartment. He hadn’t let himself accept, unwilling to become that attached to anyone. He did take Ev’s address and phone number and promised to let his friend know whenever he moved.

Two years ago, and he hadn’t seen Ev since, but they had exchanged quite a few letters and several phone calls. His friend moved, also, from Eastern Pennsylvania to Eastern Massachusetts, and was in a band that wasn’t half bad, from the way Ev talked.

“Can I get you anything else?”

Duncan turned with a start from where he’d been staring out the large ceiling-to-floor windows.

The waitress stepped back. “I’m … sorry. I just thought … maybe you were hungry? Mom just pulled a fresh loaf of bread out of the oven. She wouldn’t mind if…”

“Thank you. It sounds fine, bu’ I will pay for it.” He wasn’t about to accept charity, and he couldn’t turn her down. She was a sweet girl through her fear.

Beginning to argue, the girl decided against it and refilled his cup. Her nervousness seemed to be mixed with concern. He knew he looked like hell. Besides losing weight, he hadn’t shaved in the last couple of days. And she obviously assumed he didn’t have much money.

She didn’t say any more, though, glancing at him and returning to the little doorway. Yes, he could see Ev with someone like this.

And Duncan needed to call.

With a careful swallow of the steaming coffee, he stood and grabbed his guitar case. He figured it was likely safe to let it sit by the table while he used the phone, but keeping a hand on his possessions had become ingrained. He did leave the duffel, however, to show he was returning.

The coins in his pocket rattled as he pulled a few out, found a dime, and dropped the rest back in. The dime clinked inside the machine and he dialed the only number he knew. Well, he still remembered Joe and Mel’s but hadn’t called them in a long while.

He stood facing his table, where he could see the door, and waited for an answer.


Wrong voice. “I was lookin’ for Evan Scott. Do I have the wrong place?”

“No. He’s here. Well, not at the moment, but … is this Duncan?”

He paused. How in the hell did this guy know who he was? “Y’ know when he will be back?”

Silence. “Depends. Can I tell him who’s asking for him?”

The guy was offended and probably a friend of Ev’s. “Yeah, it’s Duncan. He said t’ call…”

“In that case, yes, he just stepped across the hall. I’m supposed to find out where you are and he’ll be right there.”

“An’ you are?”

A chuckle came across the line. “Well, I was warned. I’m Mike, his roommate.”

Warned? Mike… “Y’ are the band’s lead.”

“That’s me. So … you wanna tell me where you are, or hold on ‘till I pull him back over here? You are in town by now?”

The band’s lead, and good friend of Ev’s if Duncan remembered the letters well enough. “Yeah, uh … hold on.” Damn, what was the name of the café? He caught the waitress’s attention and she came right over. “Sorry, but, what is the name of this place?”

She glanced at the small door again. Was she always so nervous? “I have someone comin’ to pick me up. He lives here.”

“Oh. Maybe I know him, then. Tell him it’s the home of the best doughnuts in town.”

Was that a test? He put the phone back to his ear. “I do no’ know the name, but the waitress says…”

“I heard her. Tell Alison I said hello, and Evan will be right there.” The phone clicked.

“Did he know?”

He returned the receiver to the cradle. “Are you Alison?”

She smiled, a beautiful smile. “I guess he did. Your bread is on the table, and I put some butter and jams there. Let me know how it is.” With that, she left again to greet other customers.

Duncan returned to his table. What had he just walked into?

[ Post a Reply to This Message ]
Subject: #3 : 10 March, second stanza

LK Hunsaker
[ Edit | View ]

Date Posted: 10:19:36 03/15/09 Sun

Evan pulled his dark brown Mercury Cougar in front of “Ein Bisschen Luxus” – in English, a little luxury. A funny place for his friend to land. Besides being at least twice as far away from the bus station as it would have been if he had gone the opposite direction, the little café was the band’s hangout. Susie would say it was a good omen. Evan didn’t believe in omens, but he did think it would be good for Duncan to have a little luxury for a change.

He saw him through the big window which threw sunlight back into his eyes. Moving to a better angle, Evan studied his friend. His hair was even longer, hanging three to four inches beyond his shoulders, and he hadn’t shaved recently. But those were minute things. His jaw line, more pronounced than usual, exposed its ridges and hollows even through the thick stubble. He’d lost weight that shouldn’t have been lost.

The scent of fresh bread wafted through the screen door. Evan pushed it open and grinned when his friend looked over, rising from the chair to meet him. Extending one hand, he grasped Duncan’s arm with his other. “It’s good to see you. I wasn’t sure you would actually come.”

Duncan tilted his head. “I was no’ sure either, bu’ I had nowhere else in mind.”

Evan released him and turned to Alison, who had been standing at Duncan’s table, talking. “It looks like you’ve already met.”

“Not formally.” She looked at Duncan. “It was Evan you called?”

“Actually, he got Mike, but I was next door. Alison, this is Duncan.”

A light of recognition hit her face. “Oh, you’re who Doug has been talking about. I should have realized when you came in with the guitar. You’re here to join the band?”

Duncan raised an eyebrow.

“We haven’t talked much about that yet. I was just hoping he would.” Evan threw his confused buddy a grin.

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“It’s fine. I’m sure he knew my motives.”

Duncan didn’t answer, his eyes even more vacant than Evan remembered.

Alison interrupted. “So, how is Susie? I haven’t seen her recently.”

He turned back, glad for the change of subject. “She’s been very busy, with the show coming up in a couple of months. And don’t take it personally; I don’t even see her often.”

“Wow, that is busy.” She smiled, teasing him with her eyes. “Are you staying for coffee? I was forcing your friend to try Mom’s latest batch of bread. I’m sure I can sneak another.”

Evan chuckled. “Thanks, but I’ll think we’ll get back. Another time.”

“Okay. Tell everyone hello for me. And it was nice to meet you.” With a grin at Duncan, she left them.

His friend threw money on the table. He always tipped well, whether he could afford it or not.

Silence infused the drive back to the apartment, with questions Evan threw getting only curt replies. He decided to leave it alone for the moment and settle for Duncan agreeing to stay the night in the little third bedroom, with a few words saying he didn’t care how small it was. Of course, from the way his friend had described the “pad” he’d just left, Evan was sure his and Mike’s apartment would be a big improvement. He was always able to see where Duncan was living from nothing but the description in the letters he received. Evan couldn’t help being slightly jealous of his friend’s natural writing ability. Duncan’s songs, as well as his guitar skills and vocals, would be a wonderful asset to the band, if he could get him to stay.

Still in silence, other than the car’s smooth rumble and wind whipping through the open windows, Evan turned the Mercury around the corner that led to the old boarding house. It was now an apartment building, with two three-bedroom apartments upstairs and the same number of two-bedrooms on the main floor, leaving room for an entranceway with a security door. The best thing about it was the large basement, which had high ceilings and great acoustics for their practices. And it was in a quiet part of town – clean and well-kept, with a large yard that set the building away from the road while leaving an open area in back featuring two large maples. The front was adorned with spring bulbs currently in bloom and an ornamental pear tree Susie loved.

What would she think of his friend? Naturally, she would accept him. She was always welcoming to his friends and acquaintances, and they generally agreed about who they wanted to hang around. With a couple of exceptions. But Duncan…. He glanced over at the man staring out the window. Susie would be able to see past the charade as Evan had, though he wouldn’t be surprised if it took her a while to fully accept him. She was leery about men, with good reason, and tended to keep her distance. Even Mike thought she was a snob when they first met.

Mike. He could be a problem. The phone conversation had put him on edge, though he didn’t say why. Evan had warned him, though, that Duncan wasn’t open and didn’t give information willingly. He couldn’t tell him more than that.

He pulled the car into the building’s parking lot and switched off the engine. “The guys may all be upstairs. They caught me as I was leaving.”

Duncan glanced at him, then nodded, opening the door.


His friend looked back, an eyebrow slightly raised.

“What made you finally come out here? What happened?”

Turning his eyes down, Duncan tightened the muscles on his face, then relaxed them enough to answer. “Needed different scenery.” Then he met Evan’s gaze. “Think your band mates are goin’ t’ want me here?”

Evan’s stomach tightened. Something had happened. He shrugged as though it didn’t matter. “I want you here. Always have.”

His expression didn’t change, but he nodded again and got out of the car, refusing to let Evan take either the bag or the guitar while walking beside him to the door.

The wide, worn wooden staircase creaked under their feet as they made their way to the second level side-by-side. The front door needed to be propped open again to clear the mustiness, and the old beige wallpaper with blue and fuchsia flowered vines hadn’t been replaced yet as they’d requested. His friend didn’t seem to notice his surroundings, anyway. He still wasn’t talking. Both were atypical. Maybe he was tired. It was roughly sixteen hours from Chicago to Lakewood by bus, maybe more with all the stops in between. And Duncan didn’t sleep around strangers.

He turned the knob and tried to let his friend in first. Duncan stood back and waited. No surprise.

Mike’s voice hit them as the door opened. He was making some sarcastic comment, most likely to his perpetual antagonist. Of course, Stuart was going to react.

“Mike, you are so full of shit. Doug, tell him he has no idea what the hell he’s talking about.”

Evan shook his head stepping in. “How about continuing this later?”

Mike turned, scanning the area. “So? Did he change his mind?”

“Not yet. Keep trying.” Evan looked back. Was that a spark of amusement in his friend’s eyes? Taking the guitar without asking, he tried to keep it a joke. “Come on in, if you dare.” There was no mistaking the slight grin. For a moment, he looked almost like himself.

The others stood to greet him. They weren’t hiding their surprise well at his appearance. And Duncan would notice.

Evan set the case on the floor in front of him, resting his arms atop. “Mike Kean, Doug Lawrence, Stuart Lowe … Duncan O’Neil.” They each took his hand, and he answered each with a nod.

Stu moved closer. “O’Neil? Are you Irish?”

Duncan perused him a moment. “Partly.”

“Shit, Evan, what’s wrong with you? You know the English and Irish don’t get along.”

Stu’s newest victim was nonplused. “Ev is Irish.”

“Yeah, but he’s part English, too. That makes him okay to be around.”

Duncan raised an eyebrow. “Well, if he is part Irish, and par’ English, I would say tha’ some of them do ge’ along.”

Stuart laughed and set a hand on Evan’s arm. “Hey man, he’s in as far as I’m concerned.”


“What? You have asked him about the band, right? Isn’t that why he brought his guitar?”

Mike elbowed him. “Shut up, already. I’m sure he takes it everywhere.” His eyes studied Duncan’s. “Ignore him. He’s barely legal and we’re still trying to raise him. And, by the way, he’s more Swiss than English. He tends to forget that.”

“At least I’m not a high-falutin’ ass.”

“Yeah, and I know what damn country my family came from.”

Doug stepped between them. “Why don’t we let the man sit down?”

Evan thanked Doug with a glance and watched as Duncan took the seat farthest from the group.

Mike was still studying him until he noticed Evan’s silent reprisal. “Oh, Gerry called while you were out. He wants us this Friday. Will that work for you?”

“I was supposed to work late. What time?”

“He’s negotiable since it’s a last-minute fill-in.”

“Okay. I’ll get off as early as I can; won’t be before seven, though.”

“So, eight would work?”

“Yeah, I’ll take my things in and meet you there.” He looked over Duncan. “Feel like sitting in Friday night? Nothing big, just a local bar we play all the time, and you should be familiar with most of the stuff we’re doing.”

Evan watched his face as he didn’t answer, hoping he wasn’t pushing too fast. Duncan didn’t look irritated, though, with him, it was often hard to tell.

His friend glanced over at Mike, who had resumed the condescending stare, then back to Evan. “If you want, bu’ no’ if I am in the way.”

In the way? Not hardly. They would be lucky to have him. And Mike could think whatever he wished. “Great. We practice every night after work, except any Friday we’re not playing, though that’s always subject to change. We usually take Sundays off, too, depending…”

“Hell, not today, we’re not.” Stu pushed to the edge of his seat. “After what you’ve been saying, I wanna hear the guy play.”

If he wanted to be as rude as Mike, Evan would be telling Stuart to shut up. Another curious look from his friend said Duncan was wondering just how much Evan had told them. “He’s been on a bus since last night.” And it was nearly five. He turned back to his friend. “Do you want to lie down a while?”

“In the middle o’ the day? Y’ know I do no’ do naps.”

Stuart laughed. “Told you, didn’t he? He’s a true musician, always ready to play. So, let’s go.” Jumping off the couch, he stood waiting to be followed.

Evan looked for the reaction, but Duncan was watching Stu.

“Why not?” Mike threw a challenging look. “If you’re game. Evan has said you’re not bad.” He stood, turning it into a dare.

“If Ev wants t’ play, I will walk down with him.”

Perfect answer. Not confrontational, but not letting Mike take control, as he was apt to do. Duncan knew he was being tested. Maybe Evan should have mentioned that his friend was not someone to take lightly, or to underestimate. His combination of quick intelligence and street smarts made him a venomous opponent … when pushed.

Hoping that playing would break the tension between the two men, he stood, and Duncan did the same. So far, he was going along, but Evan knew that wouldn’t last.

Stuart badgered him with questions on the way down to the basement. Where had he learned to play? Taught himself. How long had he been playing? A while. Who was his biggest influence? Clapton. Did he play anything except guitar? Didn’t have any interest. Did he read music?

Duncan finally stopped, and turned. He was silent, staring at this kid giving him the third degree.

Evan wondered if he should step in. His friend’s look wasn’t giving anything away, but he did hate to be badgered. Mike moved closer to Stuart, as a warning.

Ignoring Mike, Duncan kept his eyes on the keyboardist. “Do y’ always talk so much?”

Stu hesitated, glancing at Evan before answering. “Generally.”

Duncan raised an eyebrow and shook his head, then continued down the second flight of stairs leading to the basement door.

Evan watched him a moment before turning back to see the reactions. Stu was speechless for a change. Doug was amused. Mike wasn’t. He was used to being the only one who put Stuart “in his place.” That could be trouble.

[ Post a Reply to This Message ]
Subject: This is #3 : 10 March 1974, third stanza

LK Hunsaker
[ Edit | View ]

Date Posted: 11:43:18 03/15/09 Sun

Susie picked up the last toy from the floor and dropped it into the plastic bin she kept for Timmy and Taylor. Now that her charges had gone home, she thought about catching up on paperwork she hadn’t bothered to do yet. But she was tired tonight. So instead, she lit the three lavender-scented candles accenting her oak coffee table, flopped onto her favorite corner of the light brown sectional couch, and pulled her legs up in front, entwining them into a knot.

Listening to the silence, deafening after having the little ones there most of the day, she wondered if Evan would come back. She doubted it, since his friend just arrived. What would he be like in person? Of course, she had heard a lot about Duncan and knew how excited Evan was about him coming. She also knew Evan wasn’t sure he would stay. At least she would finally get to meet him, and no matter what he was like, she would welcome him for Evan’s sake.

Even if the guy had pulled her best friend away when they were finally getting to spend time together. The show had kept her so busy recently, with extra practices and planning meetings and ordering costumes, that she had hardly been able to say two words to him in the last two weeks. And she’d missed him.

Maybe she could go over and say hello. But, Duncan would likely want to get settled in before being bombarded with company. She would. She still remembered feeling overwhelmed the first time she visited Evan after he moved to Lakewood. Mike, Stu and Doug were constantly there. Well, Doug wasn’t so much, since he enjoyed the peace of having Stu out of their apartment now and then, but Mike and Stu were a bit overbearing. She liked them all from the start, but Stu was … just constant, and Mike … well, she still wasn’t always sure he wanted her around. Although, he acted the same with everyone else, too, except Evan. Evan had a way of being welcome anywhere. She didn’t know anyone who didn’t want him around. Maybe it was his Libra calmness, or because he was so … perfect.

His perfection was covered by humility, though. She had never known anyone else who was so sweet and gentle, and yet so strong. He was also incredibly smart and had a wonderful sense of humor. Not to mention his looks: the solid shoulders and expansive chest muscles, which she didn’t get to see often enough, along with his rich brown eyes and perfectly-layered brown hair. Okay, she preferred darker hair, but it wouldn’t look good on him. And she wouldn’t change anything about her best friend.

Maybe one thing, and maybe that could still happen.

Susie swallowed a sudden, deep breath, and stood. She needed to go work out, to her own music instead of the stuff she was using for the show. The long leggings she was wearing under her T-shirt … under Evan’s T-shirt that she’d borrowed and hadn’t returned yet, would be fine. She could pull the shirt off when it started to get in her way, since she had her stretch tank underneath. Stu always teased her about wearing dance clothes even when she wasn’t dancing. But they were comfortable. And she didn’t have to go change if she had a sudden urge to work out.

Rifling through her cassettes – Susie almost always bought cassettes now instead of the bulkier albums – she started to pick up a Mozart tape Evan gave her long ago. No, she wasn’t in the mood for classical. What was she in the mood for? Going past Elton John, she stopped at Jimi Hendrix. She had forgotten to give it back to Stu. He would be asking for it soon, but she could use it again first.

Blowing out the candles and grabbing her cassette player, jazz shoes, and keys on her way out the door, she slipped her flats onto her feet almost as an afterthought. The warmth of the hallway reminded her that her apartment windows were still open and it would be getting too cold soon. Returning long enough to close them, she checked again to make sure her keys were in her hand and shut the door, surprised at the sound of music coming from the basement. She could hear the drum beat from the top hallway, with guitar joining in as she got closer. That guitar wasn’t Evan or Stu. Stu was on his keyboard. Moving further down the stairs, Susie could start to make it out. They surely weren’t practicing with his friend already. Evan said he was coming in on the bus and Chicago was quite a long ride. She got tired on their car trips to Pennsylvania, though Evan said it was because she wasn’t used to holding still for so long at a time.

Reaching the basement door, Susie opened it slowly and was greeted with the blast of a guitar riff. She held still, listening. The song was familiar, and Mike’s voice, and Doug, and Stu, but … if that was Evan’s friend, his skill had been under-emphasized. She was astounded.

Stepping into the basement, she knew they wouldn’t see her from the far end of the room since it was dark on her end. It would give her a better chance to listen without interrupting. She set her things on the floor against the wall, then stood, watching.

Evan was taking second string, playing his bass instead of guitar. But Susie was watching his friend. He didn’t look the way she expected. His hair was a deep shade of brown and hung a ways past his shoulders. From this distance, it nearly blended in with his black leather vest. Well, it could be imitation leather, she supposed, but somehow, she didn’t imagine it was. He didn’t look fake in any way. His jeans were well-worn, with a tear above one knee, and the T-shirt he hadn’t bothered to tuck in was faded to a soft red and could have been painted to his chest. There was no extra material. Susie often wished Evan would wear his that way.

And he was good. But, he acted as though he knew he was good. The other guys were watching each other and Evan’s friend, but he was watching no one. Now and then he focused on his guitar, though as masterfully as he was manipulating the strings, he couldn’t have needed to concentrate on them. She supposed he had heard too often how good he was, although that didn’t fit the image she had of him from Evan’s descriptions. Evan had never been impressed with people who were too full of themselves. He would, however, want this kind of talent in the band if it were at all possible. His music was much more important to him than he ever let on. Would he befriend anyone for only that reason? No. She couldn’t see it.

Susie crept closer, still hidden by the darkness of the large basement. The sound coming from the far end of the room was more intense than usual, more alive … hypnotic. They had talked about needing either a second guitarist or bass player, so they could always have one on each and still leave Stu on his keyboard without pushing Mike into playing bass while singing, which he didn’t like to do. They auditioned a few people, but none had fit in well enough. Nathan had fit in musically, but they hadn’t found anyone else since he left. And he couldn’t have ever improved enough to compare to this.

When the song ended, Stu’s voice rang through the basement. He was as impressed as she was, and despite his nonchalant attitude, he wasn’t at all easy to impress. Doug agreed, though more quietly. Evan was watching Mike. Susie knew it was his opinion Evan most wanted. Their lead wasn’t saying anything. She imagined he didn’t like the look of the new guy. Mike could really be a snob when he tried. And he seemed to be trying.

She ventured closer yet, quietly, watching the scene.

“Well?” Evan finally pushed Mike into answering.

“Well, what?”

“What do you mean, what? Do we offer him a job if he wants it?”

Mike was silent again, standing there looking at Evan.

The new guy pulled the strap from around his neck. “Man, if he does no’ want me in, he is no’ about t’ say so in front of me.”

Her stomach fluttered. Evan hadn’t mentioned his accent. Gorgeous, not American, but she couldn’t quite place it. She didn’t remember Evan bothering to tell her he was foreign.

The guitarist returned his instrument to its case, and she watched him bend down, the skin of his knee pressing against the torn denim, long fingers pushing hair back out of his way. Even from this distance, he emitted a feeling of sensuality, not only because of his bronzed skin and slender, muscular build accenting a sculpted jawline, but also because of the way he moved: rhythmically, gracefully.

“Well, hell, I don’t know what you’re waiting for.” Mike’s voice drew her attention. “We all knew he was in as soon as you said he was coming.”

The guy stood again, holding onto his guitar case, tilting his head … barely. “No’ if I am no’ wanted here. I did no’ come for a job.”

Not wanted? Susie couldn’t imagine any band not wanting him. He would be good for them – maybe the finishing touch they needed.

She moved into the glow from the light over their heads. “He didn’t seem to want me here when I came, either. But he still puts up with me.” She smiled at Evan, ignoring Mike, then forced herself to appear calmer than she felt when meeting the stranger’s eyes. “Of course they want you. Evan wouldn’t have asked you to play with them if they didn’t. That’s what he meant. They trust his judgment.”

The guitarist’s eyes bore into hers. Maybe she should have stayed out of it, but she always had trouble staying out of the band’s business. And she didn’t want Mike chasing him off, for Evan’s sake as well as for Raucous as a whole.

Noting Evan prop his bass against its stand and come over to join her, Susie used the excuse to pull her eyes away from his buddy.

“Been here long?”

She relaxed when he touched her back. “No, but long enough. He’s even better than you said.” She spoke softly, so the man whose eyes she could still feel wouldn’t overhear.

“Come on, let me introduce you.”

She nodded and walked beside him, doing her best not to let her nervousness show. What was wrong with her? She hadn’t been nervous meeting the other guys – well, not very. And she was nineteen now – too old to act this way.

The guitarist’s eyes remained on her face. They were gorgeous: bright blue, with long lashes, and so shockingly direct. She generally didn’t like stubble on a man’s chin, but his accentuated his ruggedness. Maybe that wasn’t the right word. It was more … a sensual aura. As she had felt at a greater distance, the man truly emitted pure sensuality.

“Suse, this is Duncan O’Neil. Susie Brooks.”

She barely heard Evan, but she already knew his friend’s name.

He extended a hand without releasing her eyes. “It is a pleasure.”

She felt the calluses on his fingers as he gripped her hand firmly, but carefully, as though trying not to hurt her. “Thank you. It’s nice to meet you finally, since I’ve heard so much.” Good. She had managed to keep her voice from shaking.

He glanced at Evan with a slightly raised eyebrow, just one. It was adorable.

“I know you remember me talking about Susie.” Evan touched her back again.

Duncan released her hand and returned his gaze to her, silently. Evan obviously hadn’t talked about her much.

“My friend from Pennsylvania. I wrote that she moved out here.”

Now, a sign of recognition. “The one your mum took care of?”


He tilted his head with a touch of a frown. “He did no’ describe you well. I was picturing a young girl, which you are no’.”

She looked at Evan. A young girl? Was that how he saw her?

“I can no’ imagine why anyone would no’ want you around.”

His friend drew her attention again, for only a moment until she pulled her eyes away, hopefully hiding the warmth she could feel crawling into her cheeks. Why was he getting to her? It wasn’t as though she had never received a compliment from a guy. She’d received plenty, but most had only been … lines, or … empty.

“I am sorry. I did no’ mean t’ embarrass you.”

She forced an imitation calm and grinned at him. “No, it’s … I was thinking the same thing … about you…. I mean….” Cursing herself silently, she shook her head and took a deep breath. “I’m sorry. It’s been a long week. What I mean is … Mike was just giving you a hard time. You fit in with the band well. I hope you’ll stay and give it a try.”

“Hey, that is a compliment, coming from Susie.” Stu jumped in and nudged Duncan’s shoulder. “She’s the one who always has an objection for everyone we audition.”

Duncan barely glanced at Stu and his eyes were back on her. “D’ you hang with the band much?”

Band talk. She could handle that. “Pretty often. Whenever I’m not working.”

He nodded. “In that case, I migh’ just hang around a while.”

Shivers consumed her inside. Was he hitting on her? Why would a guy like him have any interest in her? Or was he another who hit on every girl he met? Somehow, she didn’t think so. He was completely wrapped up in her, at least for the moment, and they had just met. How wrapped up would he get if they actually…

Evan rubbed her back and she vaguely heard him invite her over for pizza while Stu teased about “another one” flirting.

Flirting. Maybe he was a natural flirt. Evan didn’t seem concerned.

[ Post a Reply to This Message ]
Subject: #4 : 10 March, fourth stanza

LK Hunsaker
[ Edit | View ]

Date Posted: 11:45:06 03/15/09 Sun

Evan watched Duncan studying his best friend.

He was obviously attracted to her, but, so was every other male she met. Why wouldn’t any man be interested? She was beautiful, and not only on the outside, but also from within. The shiny, long black hair contrasting with her dark blue eyes and alabaster skin, along with her perfect features – she really did have the most perfectly shaped facial features – were just the frame she had to have. Anything less would have been unnatural. A Monet couldn’t go into a garage sale frame.

For Duncan to so overtly show interest in a girl, any girl, though was … well, Evan had never seen it. Girls were constantly doing the same to his friend, but he rarely paid much attention to any of them, even when he was dating one. Although dating wasn’t exactly what Evan would call it. A date generally involved getting to know your companion and that didn’t seem to ever happen with Duncan and his … flings.

He was still quiet as they sat around the apartment, pizza having been delivered and consumed, the rest stored in the refrigerator. Stu kept trying to draw Duncan in to the conversation, and his friend wasn’t being rude, exactly. He had again chosen the chair furthest from the others and answered direct questions but didn’t elaborate. Although Evan knew Duncan’s knowledge of music would easily rival Stuart’s.

“We need more good rock and less of this mushy stuff that’s trying to pass for rock or pop or whatever it’s trying to pass for. Look at John Denver. Sunshine … on my shoulders….” Stu sang the first line, and went back to complaining. “What is that? A child could write those lyrics. And if you can’t sing more than two notes, then why bother?”

Susie pulled a leg up beneath her. “It’s easy listening.”

“Easy for who? Please.” He went on to sing the next line, in a fairly close imitation, then shook his head. “Is he kidding, or what?”

“Maybe some of us are tired of the whining about how bad things are with the world. You know, there’s a place for every type of music. Just because it doesn’t have Led Zeppelin’s strength or Eric Clapton’s technique doesn’t mean it’s not good. I like John Denver’s music. It’s soothing.”

“You’re a girl. What do you know?”

“Excuse me? I’ve been into music almost as long as you have been. No, I don’t play it, but I listen to all kinds, and I had my own music teacher.” She nodded toward Evan. “And being male or female has nothing to do with being able to appreciate music.”

“You like Clapton?”

She turned her attention to Duncan, who spoke voluntarily for the first time since returning to the apartment. “Yes. Not all of the songs, but I love his playing and his voice. I really like Lovin’ You Lovin’ Me. It’s beautiful.”

“The words … or the music?”

Susie stared. Evan couldn’t tell whether she was deciding how to answer, or wondering why Duncan had finally decided to start talking. A girl who was into Clapton would definitely get his friend’s attention.

“Both … together. I really can’t like a song if I don’t like both the music and lyrics. If one or the other irritates me, I won’t listen to it.”

“There are a lo’ of songs out there that have great music, though, even if the words are no’ good.”

“I’m sure there are, but what is the point of listening to them if it’s not enjoyable? Isn’t that what music is for?”

“Sometimes. Bu’ sometimes it is just about the feeling of it.”

“Well, maybe so, but, unless the feeling is supposed to be irritation, the words have to be as good as the music. Otherwise, it doesn’t work.”

Evan couldn’t keep from laughing. She wouldn’t appreciate it, but he knew Duncan was baiting her, testing.

She shot him an annoyed look. “And why are you laughing? You know that as well as I do. Don’t you dare join the boys’ club, here, and act like I don’t know anything just ‘cause I’m a girl. I swear I’ll never talk to you again.”

He raised his eyebrows, trying to control another chuckle. “Oh, I think you will. You never stay mad at me long.”

“There’s a first time for everything.” Her expression was serious but the sparkle in her eyes gave her away.

“I’m not laughing at you. Of course you’re right.”

“Then what is so funny?”

Duncan jumped in. “I jus’ wondered if you would argue. Most girls will no’ argue with a musician abou’ music. None I have met, anyway.”

Evan watched his friend. He seemed more himself the longer he talked to her. If he would shave the beard…

“She’s not a girl; she’s just one of us. Evan raised her more like a brother than a sister.”

He began to answer Stu, but she beat him to it. “Evan did not raise me. And he’s not my brother.”

“You grew up in the same house. What’s the difference?”

Her eyes threw daggers at Stu, then looked at Evan, for help maybe? But what could he say? That he didn’t want to be thought of as her brother, either? And what reason would he give? Nothing he wanted her to hear. Nothing he was ready to admit out loud.

She looked away. “I have things I need to get done.” Uncrossing her legs, she nearly sprang off the couch. “See you guys later. Thanks for the pizza. It was nice to meet you, Duncan. I do hope you’ll stay a while.”

He stood. “I did no’ mean t’ offend you…”

“Oh, you didn’t. I love discussing music, whether we agree or not. Another time?”

He nodded and she left the apartment.

Evan followed. He should have been able to think of an answer since she’d been asking him for one. But he honestly didn’t understand why it bothered her so much. “Suse…”

She stopped in between her door and his, barely turning to wait for him to speak.

“You know Stu was just trying to get to you. What did you expect me to say?”

Her head raised, eyes touching his. “Do you think of me as a little sister? As a child?” Her voice was soft, reaching into his soul.

No, not anything like a sister. He could never think of her that way.


“No, Angel. I have never thought of you as a sister. And I have not thought of you as a child for quite some time.”


“You’re my best friend. You always have been.” He moved closer and took her hand. “You always will be.”

She was silent for a long while, waiting. For what, he wasn’t sure. Maybe it was time to tell her…

“You promise?”

Maybe not. Maybe all she wanted was his reassurance that no one else would take her place. Was she afraid that as much as he talked about wanting Duncan here, that he wouldn’t spend as much time with her, or would need her less? He couldn’t possibly ever need her less, or more.

He took a deep breath. “I promise that no one will ever come between us. No one will ever matter more to me than you do.”

She held him.

Her head lay against his shoulder, low enough for her forehead to lightly brush his jaw. A soft floral scent combined with her own, and the warmth in her hands penetrated his shirt right through to his skin, her arms around him too natural not to belong there. Even when they dated other people, there was never anything permanent in their separate relationships. She would see eventually that she belonged to him.

Too soon, she moved away. “I do need to get some things done. Can I ride in with you tomorrow?”

Her question didn’t surprise him. Any time they had any kind of friction, she spent the next day or two staying closer than usual, as though she honestly thought she might lose him. There was no chance of that. “Of course. But I thought I’d offer Duncan the job I’ve been holding at the gym, so he may be going in with me, too. If you don’t mind?”

“You know I don’t mind.” She finally looked up at him. “Do you think he’s going to stay?”

Evan shrugged. “I don’t know, but I’m going to try.”

“And not just for the band.”

“No. Even if he’s not interested in the band.”

“So did I pass his test?” Her eyes sparkled.

“I would guess so. And don’t take it personally. He actually talked more to you than he does to most people until he gets to know them.”

“Well, I hope he’ll like it here so you can hang out with him again.”

Evan watched her try to act like it didn’t matter to her, other than for his sake. He didn’t think it was quite true. “Is Kate home?”

“Not that I know of.” She turned to unlock her door.

“Then I’ll walk you in.”

He waited until her lights were on and touched her back, loving that she was wearing his shirt. His own act came when she “borrowed” anything that belonged to him. He had to try to pretend it mattered, at least somewhat, though he supposed that wasn’t well hidden, either. She could borrow anything he had and keep whatever she wanted. He imagined she knew that by now.

Outside her closed door, he stood. In time. He had to wait. She was only nineteen and not ready for all he wanted to offer. Not to mention that he couldn’t support her the way he wanted … yet.


Susie slid out of her shoes and went to her cassette holder, picking up another she’d borrowed from Stu. It was funny how Duncan stayed quiet until she brought up Eric Clapton. She knew that’s what got his attention by the way his eyes snapped to hers. He was likely a fan. She really couldn’t call herself one, though she liked him okay. But Jim Croce, Carly Simon, and Elton John were more her style. She wondered how he felt about them. Maybe she would ask, when she got enough nerve.

She did really like Lovin’ You though.

Pulling the cassette from its case, she broke the silence of her apartment by clicking open the door of her stereo/cassette player. It was at the beginning of side one, where she always left them, so she slid the tape in with side two facing her and hit rewind. Sitting in front of the machine, she watched the thin, brown tape move from one side to the other. It made an eerie hushing sound. She closed her eyes and listened for it to be close to where she wanted it to stop. After the hours she had spent sitting in front of her stereo, rewinding or fast forwarding, she pretty well knew by the pitch how close it was to the beginning or end. A crazy trick to teach herself, she supposed, but it was music-related, in a way. Or maybe just a distraction to keep her mind off other things in the silence.

She checked the progress. Deciding it should be in about the right spot, she stopped the spinning and pushed play. Bottle of Red Wine was ending. Close enough; she would wait and let it finish.

At least he had admitted he didn’t think of her as a sister. That was something. Not much, but something. She felt his hand on her back. As the last strains faded, it was replaced by the feel of his buddy holding her hand, looking at her as though the world would stop if she weren’t there. Susie admonished herself. She was imagining things. But his eyes … and the way he held her … even if it had only been her hand…

The music pulled her back again. Maybe Duncan was a Clapton fan, but Lovin’ You Lovin’ Me was Evan’s song. He sang it at nearly every gig they had, and she’d been the one to request that he learn it.

She didn’t sing along this time, as she often did. Instead, she let the music, and the words, invade her senses and saw Evan on stage, singing to her. Why couldn’t he see her as anything more than a friend, even a best friend? She wasn’t a child any longer. Her mom had been married by her age. Of course, she wasn’t ready for that, but she was ready for something … real. And she wanted it with Evan.

She closed her eyes and let the song finish, then clicked it off, hit fast forward to leave it at the beginning and pulled it from the stereo. A noise at the door broke the spell and she turned to see her roommate come in. Not alone.

“Hey Suse, this is Kirk, the lead in our play. Are we interrupting, or would you mind if we went over some lines here?”

Susie pushed to her feet. The guy let his eyes roam her frame. “No, it’s okay. I’ll take my work back to my room.”

The guy smirked. “She could stay out here and read with us. I have the perfect part for her.”

She glanced at Kate, who didn’t seem to notice the tone of his voice, or didn’t care. “Thanks, but I really need to get this stuff done. I want to have Mike look at it tomorrow.” That was a lie, but she wanted Kate to know she disapproved.

Her roommate pulled her chin higher. “That’s okay. You stay out here. We can go to my room.”

Susie watched Kirk obediently follow. Kirk. Right. It was probably Bob, or Frank, and he was trying to make himself sound more theatrical. Everyone Kate brought home was so fake it was ridiculous. Why she would want a guy like that instead of Mike was beyond her. So, Mike could be a bit of a snob, but underneath, he was a great guy. And he would likely be in a better mood more often if Kate would stop messing with him and just say yes or no.

But then, who was she to criticize? She couldn’t even tell her best friend how she really felt about him. The rejection would be more than she wanted to face, and then what? At least this way, she could keep hoping.

[ Post a Reply to This Message ]
Subject: #5 : 11 March 1974

LK Hunsaker
[ Edit | View ]

Date Posted: 11:47:05 03/15/09 Sun

Keeping her mind on the notes about what her students needed to practice proved impossible. She kept seeing the echo of Duncan’s eyes when he and Evan came to her door to escort her to work. The bright blue snares pulled her in, casting a gaze beyond simple flirting. Evan’s questioning look told her she had stared too long. He had shaved, the intensity showing even more with the bare skin accenting his rigid jaw line and eyes that were less tired. The handshake when they met was still as vivid as while he was still holding her.

He was the kind of guy she would avoid except that he was Evan’s friend, and Evan was more particular than most about whom he called a friend. He had a lot of acquaintances, and people naturally gravitated toward him, but he kept a wall between himself and others. Occasionally, he found someone he would let inside. Susie could count them on one hand: herself, his mom, her dad, Mike … and Duncan. Even Stu and Doug were still somewhere between acquaintances and friends, though she did count them as her friends. But she wasn’t quite as discerning. She needed people more than Evan did.

Deciding that trying to concentrate was a waste of time, Susie got up from the small work table in the teachers’ lounge and reclaimed the bag holding her cassettes and dance shoes. There had to be a free room at this time of the day, since most classes were in the afternoon and evening.

Walking down the quiet hallway, she paused for a moment to watch Janet teach an adult class. Her friend was great with adults and a good studio manager. Of course, she was nearly eight years older than Susie, three years older than Evan, but then, most of the teachers were closer to Janet’s age. Susie was the youngest, but just as qualified as anyone else working there. She had to remind herself of that now and then.

“Hi, Susie. You’re in early today.”

She smiled at Monica’s greeting. “I rode in with Evan.”

“How is he? I haven’t seen him here recently.”

“He’s fine, working longer hours since he’s been short-handed at the gym, and busy with the band, as usual.”

“Oh? Are they playing this weekend?”

“Friday night, at Maggie’s. You might want to come if you can. I think he’s talked his friend into playing and the new sound is great.”

“Maybe I will. Ronnie has cousins visiting and I don’t want them in my house all weekend.”

Susie chuckled as the bookkeeper left, and continued down the hall. They were the strangest couple. Monica was a straight-laced and highly intelligent business woman, the studio’s accountant, and Ronnie … well, Waylon Jenning’s Good-hearted Woman came to mind whenever Susie saw them together, thanks to Evan’s mom’s fervor for country music. Susie personally didn’t care for Ernest Tubb, or much of country music, though she did like that song. From what she’d heard of Waylon’s voice so far, she believed he should sing it himself and do a better job.

Finding an empty room, she slipped out of her flats and into her ballet shoes, beginning with a warm-up stretch, then falling in with the music. Thoughts of Evan and his friend dissolved into energetic strains of Mozart’s Symphony Number 40 and the luxurious feel of her muscles following years of training. She rarely wore toe shoes while working out, preferring the naturalness of the soft, well-worn slippers. Ballet was her first love, other than her parents. Evan was her second. She wasn’t sure which would come first if she ever had to choose.

She danced through the symphony and a serenade, then pulled her toe shoes on to practice her routine for the show. The theme was musicals and each teacher had chosen one musical to use for themselves and their students. She decided on “West Side Story,” with her four- and five-year-old ballet class dancing to I Feel Pretty, and the same age jazz class performing Cool. Her older students were covering the best songs on the rest of the soundtrack, with her soloist performing Tonight on pointe. It was her first show having a student in toe shoes, and she was more nervous about that routine than her own.

Susie was starting her section with Something’s Coming, dancing lead in jazz with her jazz students joining her, and they would end with her ballet students accompanying her solo on Somewhere. The teachers and assistants who actually spoke to her had given her compliments on the choreography. The others had been avoiding her even more.

The song ended and she glanced at the clock. Another hour until she went to meet Evan. Maybe she would be able to study her notes now that she had used some energy.

[ Post a Reply to This Message ]
Subject: #6 : (11 March cont.)

LK Hunsaker
[ Edit | View ]

Date Posted: 11:49:07 03/15/09 Sun

Evan watched as she pushed a strand of hair from her face. He loved sitting outside with her during lunch, on the old weathered-gray picnic table beside the gym. She was in her element with the breeze brushing her skin and playing with her silky hair, and the branches above partly sheltering her from the sun. Susie had always loved the spring, when leaves and grass boasted their new green and the air was freshly cleansed by winter’s cold.

He was glad she asked to come in with them so they could have this time together, even if they weren’t alone. Duncan wasn’t saying much, though he often gazed at Susie from across the table, so they had time to catch up on what they missed during the busyness of the prior week.

Having exhausted conversation, she watched children on the nearby playground. Evan glanced over to find her focus and grinned about the small boy pushing a smaller girl on a swing. “Remind you of anything?”

She looked back and smiled. “You know, I always knew how to do it myself. I just wondered how long you would believe I couldn’t.”

He set a hand on her back. “I know. And I knew then.”

“You did not.”

He didn’t argue. His silence would answer as well.

“Then why did you keep pushing me?”

“Jeremy thought it was funny.”

“He knew that you knew? Why didn’t he tell me?”

“Because it was nice to see you smile for a change.”

She let her eyes wander back to the children. Her expression turned to thoughtfulness.

“Jeremy … your brother?”

Evan pulled his attention from her to answer his friend. “Yes. They were cohorts. Now and then I regretted teaching her sign language.”

“Sign language?” Duncan crossed his arms on the table in front of him and waited for an explanation.

Evan noted Susie’s glance, but he had to answer. “Jeremy was born deaf. She learned to talk to him much faster than we expected.” And she was wondering why he hadn’t told Duncan his brother was deaf, but she didn’t ask.

“Was tha’ the cause of the accident? Because he did no’ hear the car coming?”

“We’re not sure it was. The guy was driving so fast, it likely wouldn’t have made a difference.”

She looked at him again, then looked away. After all these years, Susie still couldn’t discuss it. She’d been the one outside with his brother at the time. Even with all their assurances, she wouldn’t stop blaming herself. She was twelve, Jeremy two years older. He knew better than to be on his bike after dusk, even if he did like splashing through rain puddles. It was his own mistake. She at least had the sense not to join him in his mission. Evan could have lost them both.

“You were friends with his brother also?” Duncan was studying her.

She hesitated. “Yes.” Her mood changed meeting his eyes. “And it was really unfair to Evan how we ganged up on him.”

He couldn’t help chuckling. “Yeah, and how many guitar strings did I lose that way?”

“Oh, you didn’t lose very many. We gave most of them back.”

“And some were still usable.” Evan took a swallow of his Coke and explained. “They used to untie them while I was away and refuse to give them back until I took them to the park. Occasionally, they got used for other things first.” He threw a look at Susie.

She tried unsuccessfully to hold back her laughter, reminding him of the fragile little girl he first knew. No matter how old they both got, he couldn’t imagine ever losing that image.

“You know….” She raised her own Styrofoam cup and sipped ginger ale through the straw. “I never told you this, but he proposed to me when I was eleven.”

Evan studied the profile of her face as she sipped more of the drink. Was she serious? Did his little brother beat him to it? “He what?”

She shrugged. “He said I was the only girl he could talk to, other than his mom, so if I didn’t marry him he wouldn’t be able to get married. I guess that was logical to a thirteen-year-old.” Susie looked down at her hands, playing with her napkin. “I told him to ask me again when I was his age because I wasn’t old enough yet.” She took a deep breath. “That was the first thing I thought of the day I turned thirteen. He’d said he would ask me again on that day.”

Less than a year after they had lost him. Evan wondered whether his brother would have actually asked her again. Knowing Jeremy, probably so. They had been very close.

“And wha’ would you have said?” Duncan waited until she looked up. “If he was around t’ ask you again? Would y’ have married him?”

“Well, thirteen isn’t as old as it seemed when I was eleven.” She was avoiding the question.

“No, bu’ would you still be together now? Engaged maybe?”

She was silent a moment. “Together as friends, I would hope, but not engaged. He was my buddy, like Stu. It wouldn’t have been more.”

Evan wished he could thank Duncan for asking what he wanted to know. He never would have. If she’d answered differently…

“Well, I need to get back to work.” She stood, gathering the discarded papers from her take-out sandwich and her still-half-full ginger ale.

He and Duncan did the same and followed her to the picnic area trash can, then to the well-worn path leading to the gym and studio.

“What time are you off?” Evan set a hand on her back before letting her walk away.

“Six.” She stopped. “Oh, you’ll have to wait an hour. I’m sorry, I didn’t think about that last night. I can try to get a ride from someone…”

“Angel, it’s fine.”

“You have practice at seven. That won’t give you much time…”

“I have things to do, anyway.” He looked at Duncan. “You mind staying until six?”

“No’ at all. I do no’ have plans.” He was watching her.

Other than practicing with them, Evan hoped. He hadn’t said for sure.

Susie pulled her eyes away from Duncan to answer. “Okay. I’ll come over as soon as I’m done.”

“We’ll meet you at the studio.”

[ Post a Reply to This Message ]
Subject: #7 : 12 March 1974

LK Hunsaker
[ Edit | View ]

Date Posted: 11:50:35 03/15/09 Sun

Her stomach tightened.

How was she going to handle the extra expense? She couldn’t let Mariah be pulled out so close to the recital just because her father had been laid off, but the owner would never allow her mom to keep charging lessons. They were already behind. Somehow, Susie would find a way to pay for them herself until they could return it. And if the owner found out … well, she would deal with that when the time came.

Forcing a calming breath, she pulled street clothes over her leotard. Nearly five. Close enough. She could walk over to the gym instead of making Evan and Duncan come for her again.

Waving goodbye to Janet, she peered out the glass doors. Rain was threatening. It didn’t look like a storm, though. Of course, she hadn’t brought an umbrella, as usual, preferring not to be too weighed down. After another quick glance, she started across the parking lot.

Not quite reaching the door before the clouds opened, she pushed damp hair back from her face. The gym was cool and she shivered even in her jacket.

“Susie! Hi! I haven’t seen you recently. What have you been up to?”

She paused at the front desk, glancing in further to try to see Evan. “Hi Shelly, just working. What about you?”

“Same here, but it got more interesting today. You’ve got to see the new guy Evan hired – talk about hot.”

“Long, dark hair?” Susie wiped at moisture on her cheek.

“Did he tell you already?”

“I’ve met him.” She wasn’t going to reveal he was Evan’s friend.

“So maybe the four of us should hang out. Get Evan to invite him.”

She answered one of the regular patrons who said hello and patiently turned back to Shelly. “What about Gary?”

The receptionist rolled her eyes. “We broke up last week.”

“And you’re not dating again yet?”

“I’d go after Evan if he wasn’t already taken.”

“Evan’s not dating anyone.”

The redhead looked puzzled. “I thought you two were an item.”

An item? “Why would you think that?”

“Everyone here talks about how inseparable you are. There are even rumors of a wedding.”

A wedding? Where on earth would that have come from? “Shelly, we’re just friends.”


Susie nodded, backing away from the counter.

“Then you wouldn’t mind if I asked him out?”

Asked him out? Why not? He wouldn’t go out with her. She shrugged as if she didn’t care either way. “It’s none of my business who he dates. But I think he may be a little too tame for you.”

Shelly leaned closer, propped her forearms against the counter, and lowered her voice. “Sometimes the ones who are tamest on the outside are the wildest inside, once you get close enough. And I’ve always had a feeling about him. He’s been turning me on since he hired me.”

Not a conversation Susie wanted to have. Actually, she didn’t care to think about anyone being with Evan and was polite to his dates if she met them but preferred to keep her distance. “Isn’t there a dating policy here between management and employees?”

“You are interested in him.” A grin slid across her face.

“I didn’t say that.”

“You didn’t have to. Don’t worry, I’ll stay away. Maybe I’ll go for the new guy instead. He looks plenty wild enough.”

“Do you know where Evan is?”

“I think he’s back by the benches.”

“Thanks. I’ll talk to you later.” She ignored a whistle from some guy she’d never seen in there before and continued on to find her friend, trying to push Shelly’s words out of her head. Plenty wild enough. She was probably right, but it bothered her, anyway.

The back corner was mostly empty and she watched Evan stand by while Duncan lay on his back pushing a loaded bar into the air, lowering it to his chest, and raising it again. It was a lot of weight – more than she would have expected from the guy who didn’t appear that muscular.

Evan looked over at her movement. “You’re early.”

“Decided to leave. Working hard?”

“Training.” His grin reflected the joke.

“Looks like it.” She smiled at him until Duncan stood. His muscles were well-primed and she couldn’t keep from glancing at his arms and chest beneath the perfectly-fitted T-shirt. Raising her eyes to his face, she hoped he hadn’t noticed where they had been. “You didn’t have to stop on my account.”

He had noticed. She could tell from his expression. “I always stand for a lady.”

A lady? The term was surprising. “Thank you, but Stu’s right, kind of. I’m used to being one of the guys. You don’t need to be so formal around me.”

“Are you done for the day?” Evan moved closer and touched her arm. He must have been working out, as well. His shirt was damp in the middle of the chest muscles that were even more pronounced than usual.

“Not really, but I’m leaving anyway. I have the kids tonight, so I’ll have to come in early tomorrow and get some things done.”

“I thought you were cutting back on your babysitting hours until after the show.”

“Well, I was going to, but … not right now.” She wasn’t about to tell him she couldn’t afford the pay cut.

His look said he wanted to know why she changed her mind, but he turned to Duncan instead. “If you want to walk her out, I’ll stop at the office and be right behind you.”

A nod answered. His hair was pulled back with a rubber band that looked like one he had grabbed from the office. She had heard comments about “hippies” wearing their hair that way, and often she agreed, but it was such a different look on him. It wasn’t messy, as she often thought. Instead, it was a subtle blend of “wild” and … Victorian. It reminded her of Victorian paintings featuring wealthy aristocrats.

Duncan stayed close as they made their way past the benches and treadmills, his arm nearly touching hers but slightly behind. “Do you and Ev always spend a lo’ of time together?”

“Whenever it fits our schedules. Why?”

“Just wondered wha’ exactly your relationship was.”

Their relationship? Why was he asking? She had to be careful, since he would likely repeat anything she said. “We’ve been friends forever, and I spend a lot of time with all of the guys.”

“Have y’ ever dated any of them?”

She stopped walking before they got closer to Shelly, hoping her inability to meet his eyes wouldn’t reveal her nervousness.

“Sorry, it is no’ my business.”

“Why did you ask?” Susie greeted another of the regular guys by name as he walked by and said hello, glancing curiously at Duncan’s ponytail.

Duncan waited until he was out of hearing range. “I wanted to know if it would bother anyone if I were t’ ask you out.”

She found his stare. “You don’t even know me.”

“I would like t’ get t’ know you.” The blue eyes peered into hers, holding her in silence until Evan joined them.


Susie pulled her eyes away and nodded, not sure what to make of Evan’s friend. She was used to getting looks, but most guys didn’t even approach her until they were used to having her around, and then it was only in a casual greeting. They all thought she was a snob. Especially the gym regulars who knew she was Evan’s friend and greeted her out of courtesy to him. But this one … was so direct … and so unnerving.

During the ride home, again sitting between them, Susie thought about how Evan had been keeping so much physical contact the last two days. Why? Was he trying to show Duncan they were close, or maybe reassuring her? Or were the occasional looks passed between her and his friend bothering him? Had Duncan told him he wanted to ask her out? If so, why would it matter? Evan only wanted her friendship. At least, she was pretty sure that was all he wanted. His expression, though, when he saw them standing so close together, alone in the gym…

“What are you thinking so hard about?”

She looked over at his voice. For a rare moment, she couldn’t speak to him.

“Suse? What?”

Swallowing hard to break herself out of her trance, she shook her head. “Nothing. Just … dance moves.” Which was the truth, figuratively. Their whole relationship recently seemed to be a dance; she was never sure which of them was leading, though.

[ Post a Reply to This Message ]

Post a message:
This forum requires an account to post.
[ Create Account ]
[ Login ]

[ Contact Forum Admin ]

Forum timezone: GMT-5
VF Version: 3.00b, ConfDB:
Before posting please read our privacy policy.
VoyForums(tm) is a Free Service from Voyager Info-Systems.
Copyright © 1998-2019 Voyager Info-Systems. All Rights Reserved.